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Fossils document the order of appearance of groups and they tell us about some of the amazing plants and animals that died out long ago.

Fossils can also show us how major crises, such as mass extinctions, happened, and how life recovered after them.

Other critics, perhaps more familiar with the data, question certain aspects of the quality of the fossil record and of its dating.

These skeptics do not provide scientific evidence for their views.

Repeated, and tough, regimes of testing have confirmed the broad accuracy of the fossils and their dating, so we can read the history of life from the rocks with confidence. Educators have permission to reprint articles for classroom use; other users, please contact [email protected] reprint permission. Currently, he is studying certain basal dinosaurs from the Late Triassic and the quality of different segments of the fossil record.

He holds the Chair in Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of Bristol, UK, in addition to chairing the Masters program in paleobiology at the university.

If the fossils, or the dating of the fossils, could be shown to be inaccurate, all such information would have to be rejected as unsafe.

Today, innovative techniques provide further confirmation and understanding of the history of life.Results from different techniques, often measured in rival labs, continually confirm each other.Every few years, new geologic time scales are published, providing the latest dates for major time lines.All these labors have not led to a single unexpected finding such as a human fossil from the time of the dinosaurs, or a Jurassic dinosaur in the same rocks as Silurian trilobites.Paleontologists now apply sophisticated mathematical techniques to assess the relative quality of particular fossil successions, as well as the entire fossil record.

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New discoveries have filled in the gaps, and shown us in unimaginable detail the shape of the great ‘tree of life’.

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